Friday, August 9, 2013

"We Are Our Own Greatest Weapons"

The power of the human spirit 
will prevail against all odds.

Exclusive photo © David Ingogly. 
The final set in this series is posted below.

UPDATE: New video from CBS News:
An excellent interview, with bonus skating footage 
from the Ice House and interviews with 
his skating partners there. Johnny's powerful quote: 
“If it takes me getting arrested 
for people to pay attention, and for people to lobby 
against this law, then I’m willing to take it.” 
CBS video link.

So yesterday Johnny posted the third in his series of thoughtful columns on the Russian anti-LGBT crisis (or really the fourth, since his handling of this topic began four weeks ago with his column titled “Russia), in which he discussed how everyone was clamoring for his opinion and then he gave it and then everyone started clamoring about how they hated both his opinion and the fact that he gave it and him, too, while they were at it (yes, I’m paraphrasing, and using words that are a bit nicer than how I actually feel after reading endless hate tweets and hate comments directed at him—and secondarily, at fans who dared to politely offer information and context—the past four weeks from people who couldn’t be bothered to actually read what he wrote nor to grasp that the LGBT community in Russia has embraced his stance and his support of them). 

As usual, Johnny is more gracious than I in his handling of baseless criticisms from people who remain happily ensconced in willful ignorance. I just cannot with that level of deliberately uninformed pontificating.

So I have arrived at today just slightly annoyed with everyone. FFS people.

And the thing that is driving me the most crazy about everyone who’s just. not. getting. it. (and “it” includes the fact that he’s allowed to have and express an opinion that is uniquely his and certainly you don’t have to agree with it but it would perhaps be helpful to acquaint yourself with it first, with a soft handshake and at least the amount of courteous attention you might pay to someone’s kindly Aunt Mildred upon first meeting her even though you find her obsession with walrus-themed jewelry a bit off-putting)—and “everyone” includes LGBT icons George Takei (“let’s move the Olympics”) and Stephen Fry (“let’s boycott/ban the Olympics”), both of whom I adore—is the fact that lost in the sea of stridently voiced backlash / opinions is this quiet question:

What kind of help have those who are directly suffering in this truly horrific situation—the Russian LGBT community on the ground IN Russia, not in New York or California or Canada or the UK or anywhere else—asked for? What do they say they most desperately want / need?

Dear George Takei:

Dear Stephen Fry:

Exactly. LGBT activists in Russia realize what an unprecedented opportunity they have to leverage the relentless glare of the international Olympic spotlight and train it on what’s happening. Russia couldn’t have picked a worse time to swaggeringly enact this law—or a better time, as the activists have realized.

This is their moment. And they want the world to come and stand with them in Russia, to support and to witness.

And for all those demanding that Johnny or any other athletes who may compete in Sochi MUST participate in a coordinated anti-Russian demonstration during the Games, please be aware that that would be a violation of IOC rules, as Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler points out:

Despite the calls for public protest by athletes at the Games, there’s a harsh reality we have to contend with. Athletes, coaches and fans looking to make a statement about Russian anti-gay laws don’t just have Russian law to worry about: The Olympic charter forbids these kinds of statements. “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas,” the Charter’s Rule 50 reads. ... If an athlete walks into the Opening Ceremony carrying a rainbow flag, as some have called for, he will be disqualified from participation and faces bans from subsequent Olympic Games. Instead of asking athletes, coaches and fans to risk disqualification, arrest or worse in Sochi, Russia this winter, it’s time for the IOC itself to take a stand.

As does the You Can Play Project:

Many people took issue with Johnny’s statement in his recent CNN interview that, given the opportunity, he would not wave a rainbow flag at the Olympics because it goes against his principles. 

In his column, he explains:

To me, waving a rainbow flag in victory or defeat would be the same as waving a flag that celebrated my skin color, ethnic origin or eye color—the things I’ve been born with. It is one thing to be proud, and quite another to make a scene. I want people to accept my community with open arms as normal, because we are normal. Competing on behalf of the United States and waving any flag other than the American one would be disrespectful. ... As Olympians, we compete for the entire nation and all those who live within it.

I saw quite a few people jump on him yesterday for this, angrily retorting that Russia is not worthy of respect, given the current human-rights crisis. But I think he’s saying that for him, it would be a show of disrespect against the US—his own country—and against the Olympic charter to behave as anything other than an athlete who represents both his country and the spirit of the Olympics.

Johnny goes on to say:

Through all of this pro-Olympic rhetoric, I am firmly committed to helping the LGBT community of Russia in any way I can and am following the steps I believe will have the most impact. ... We are our own greatest weapons and I hope everyone can rise up in some small way—whatever way you believe in—and show the world your own personal excellence and ability to have compassion.

Please, please go read every word of Johnny’s latest column. It is a personal and powerful statement, in which he remains true to himself and his convictions with tremendous courage and integrity. 

As he notes, he is not a politician nor a protester, though he’s certainly proudly active in speaking up for his community’s rights / human rights.

He’s also not your nor anyone’s mouthpiece.

He is an Olympic athlete, a gay man, and a Russophile married to a Russian-American: a combination of qualities that uniquely qualifies him to address this situation.

But ultimately, he is Johnny Weir. He represents only Johnny Weir. And he speaks only for Johnny Weir. As he always has. 

My beliefs are my beliefs and no amount of yelling or telling me I’m inept will change that.

No, you don’t have to like it. Or him.

But people can disagree with respect. See: Johnny’s column. He doesn’t tell anyone else what opinions they should have or demand that they agree with him. He simply states what he believes, and that those beliefs are what inform his actions, and he encourages everyone else to do the same: to act in accordance with their beliefs.

So unless you’re planning to get off your couch and go to Russia yourself, as Johnny hopes to, and stand beside the Russian LGBT community ... you really might want to sit down, shut up, and listen to those who are living this nightmare. Then decide how you can positively contribute in a way that is truly helpful to those people, rather than wasting energy telling others that they’re not helping in the way that you think they should—or even more arrogantly, in the way that you think they owe the rest of the world.

This is a deeply complex situation with many possible avenues to explore in resolving it. In fighting the problem, let’s not devolve into fighting each other.

The one thing that joins all of us on the pro-gay side of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law is that we all want to help, and as a group we can.

I urge everyone to stop hating and start loving as it is the only way we can truly help.

Johnny’s latest media appearances and today’s reading list:

UPDATE: Obama Opposes Olympic Boycott, Criticizes Russian Anti-Gay Law. So even President Obama agrees with Johnny, per remarks he made today on this issue: “President Barack Obama said Friday that he did not favor boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, rejecting calls from LGBT activists to do so over a new law banning so-called homosexual propaganda.

I want to say very clearly. I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics,’ he said at a news conference. But he added that he hoped gay and lesbian American athletes would bring home medals and reiterated his opposition to the law.”

UPDATE: Sochi 2014: No good options for taking action on Russia’s anti-gay law ahead of Olympics. Excellent overview of the entire issue, which concludes with this: 

[F]igure skater Johnny Weir told ABC, “I’ll take proper precautions, but at the same time, I won’t stop being myself,” said Weir. “I won’t stop being Johnny Weir, the gay, fabulous ice skater person walking down the street.”

That, in the end, may be the best option. Go, be out, be yourself. If you’re not out, be supportive. Be proud. Inspire the people watching. We don’t know if someone will offer an act of bravery on a podium, or elsewhere. But someone should have the chance, because that, more than anything, should be what the world will remember.

US groups urge Russia Olympics boycott. An excellent interview of Johnny from Al Jazeera, plus video of him at practice. Very well done. Among his quotes: “Competing in the Olympics—whether I win or lose—just being there and saying, ‘I’m not afraid, and your laws won’t contain me, and I’ll fight for the people that are watching me and supporting me’: I think that’s the best thing I can do.” Companion piece: “Skating on thin ice in Russia,” from Al Jazeera’s blog.

The Monocle Daily Interviews Johnny Weir and David Wallechinsky About Calls for Sochi Olympic Boycott. Audio interview includes comments from Wallechinsky, an Olympic historian who notes that no Olympic boycott—and there have been more of them than you might think—has ever been effective in accomplishing its intended purpose. Johnny’s portion runs from about 16:35 to 24:40.

Don’t boycott the Olympics, ban Russia from competing instead. Cyd Zeigler’s latest. I feel bad about punishing the Russian athletes for Putin’s pogrom. But Cyd makes a good case.

I’m An Openly Gay Gold Medalist and I Reject the Sochi Olympics Boycott. Greg Louganis speaks out passionately and sides with Johnny.

Six months to Sochi: Let them play. ESPN’s Jim Caple weighs in knowledgeably and also as one of my fav sportswriters ever because of his incredibly awesome 2010 interview with Johnny (accompanying videos here and here). His take: “The United States should not boycott the Sochi Olympics. ... boycotts are justified only if they can have a positive effect on the country’s policy that we oppose. Olympic boycotts never do.” He also quotes Athlete Ally’s Hudson Taylor: “The intent of an Olympic boycott is understood, but the outcome doesn’t create the necessary change,” Taylor said. “There are two major objectives. The first is to ensure that LGBT athletes and their fans and allies are protected from persecution at the Winter Olympics. And the second is to some way improve the situation for LGBT Russians after the Games end. A boycott does neither. It only will further galvanize the situation and make it worse. We are advocating that people speak out, not sit out.”

Vitaly Mutko, Russian Sports Minister, Tells LGBT Activists To ‘Calm Down.’ Seriously? Meanwhile, the international track and field championships are happening in Moscow this month, and here’s the IAAFs learned prouncement on the Russia LGBT crisis: “I don’t have the feeling there is a problem whatsoever,” IAAF President Lamine Diack said. “There is a law that exists. The law has to be respected.” Seriously?

And finally: Winter Olympics could use a gay icon. Must-read by Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle: direct and eloquent. “The idea of a boycott is patently absurd. We found that out in 1980. All it does is hurt the athletes, robbing them of a once in a lifetime dream. Johnny Weir, who is married to a man of Russian descent, is adamantly against a boycott. The figure skater is an example of how the world is changing. In Turin in 2006, Weir declined to state his sexual orientation. He is now a spokesman for gay rights. ... The Games’ power stems from the world’s young athletes standing side by side.”

Also from CBS News: 
A message from Johnny to his Russian fans. 
“Hello Russia. I am with you. I wish you strength now, 
and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. 
I love you all very much.”
CBS video link.

Photo Essay:
The Power of the Human Spirit

This is the final set in this series of black-and-white photos taken of Johnny rehearsing Army of Me alone on the ice.

I’ve noticed a lot of comments this week from random people declaring that if they were Olympic athletes, they would immediately decline to participate in Sochi. 

Actual Olympian Greg Louganis writes of sitting at home during the 1980 Olympic boycott, which has been roundly denounced as ineffectual, like all Olympic boycotts before and since: 

The toll on fellow athletes and me was devastating. We had trained our entire lives for that one moment. 

Here’s a tiny glimpse of what that looks like: One world-class athlete, alone, in a shabby community rink, warming up, rehearsing, over and over, the same step sequences, the same jumps, the same spins, again and again and again, as he’s already done for more than half his life, in the never-ending and piercingly lonely quest for unattainable Olympic perfection.

Jim Caple says

The best way to influence Russia ... is to send our athletes to Sochi ... [L]et LGBT athletes from every nation go and ... [l]et them show... that excellence has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

As always, please click any photo twice for stunning full-size view.

Exclusive photos © David Ingogly.

Wonderful picspam of skaters being silly. 
Because that’s what I wanted for my birthday! :D
Exclusive photo © David Ingogly.


Please continue to contribute to the newly established 
Johnny & Victor Weir-Voronov 
Scholarship Fund for LGBTQ Youth
also administered by the Delaware Valley 
Legacy Fund. The DVLF is the nonprofit 
organization who recently honored Johnny 

Quiet photo essay of exclusive black-and-white pics 
paired with Johnny’s quotes from his 
Exclusive photo © David Ingogly.

Johnny’s latest column for the 
Falls Church News-Press.
His columns are published every Thursday 
in the “National Commentary“ 
section—don’t miss a single one! 

updated calendars, in case you missed out on buying yours 
in January! The new 12-month version runs from 
July 2013 to June 2014, while the 18-month version takes you 
from July 2013 all the way to December 2014.

A number of Johnny’s auction items have been relisted
which means if you missed out the first time around, 
you’re in luck: It’s not too late to own a piece of Weir Gear! 
Go check it out and see what treasures you could take home!

Please alert absolutely everyone you’ve ever met 
to “like” and follow the new 
on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr
Because he should be on all the things. 
With or without ice. 
But definitely with Viacheslav.

Landing quads and kicking ass!
Read his comeback statement 
and the update on his website!

Please click to vote for Johnny 
once a day as “Best Sportsman”
Because he retweeted Luisa Lotka 
to tell us he wants us to! 

Need to see Seasons 1 and 2 all over again? 
Watch episodes online anytime on Logo!
Please be sure to check in with GetGlue
anytime you’re watching the show... 
or thinking about watching the show.... 
or wishing you were watching the show....

At last: Pop Star On Ice is now available on DVD!
Order yours today from the Pop Star On Ice website!

Johnny tweeted:
“Buy my single,’Dirty Love’ via iTunes.
Tell all your friends to as well. The more copies sold
takes me one step closer to making a video! №1!”

You know what to do.
Please buy the song from Johnny’s website,
or just click the “Buy” button on the player
at the top of the blog!

Hey, Welcome to My World also is available
as an eBook! More info on Johnny’s website!

copyright 2013 / Binky and the Misfit Mimes / Lynn V. Ingogly / all rights reserved


aaaack said...

While I'm not advocating moving the Olympics, because I agree with what both Nikolai and Johnny agree upon and advocate for, I want the Russian leadership to be afraid, very afraid.

While LGBT are typically only from 3 to 6 percent of nearly every society's population, please consider that there's another percentage, double the previous, who are their parents. And another circle who are the grandparents, siblings, uncles/aunts, cousins. Plus there are friends, neighbors, coworkers, teachers/students, club/team/volunteer group colleagues, acquaintances, fans, etc.

When people in enlightened societies come out of the closet, they are joined by all these concentric rings of advocates who fundamentally love and like them. These circles spread out like the ripples in a pond.

Russians in their insularity and isolation are not aware of this phenomenon. Please let this be a wakeup call.

George Takei commands a little twitter army of over 100,000. Stephen Fry has fans across many continents.

So please be nice, make nice to our LGBT brothers and sisters and long-lost cousins in Russia. They want no more or less than what EVERYONE ELSE in Russia already enjoys...freedom to love, get married, and live in peace.

aaaack said...

Thank you, Binky, for channeling, concentrating and amplifying the voices of Kitten Pride (once previously known as Johnny's international "cabal"). You are Johnny-on-the-spot-on. You always step up to the occasion and land verbal triples, axels and quads.

By the way, when comments and discussions regarding LGBT conditions and Sochi multiplied on Johnny's facebook page, I started looking at some of the facebook pages of other American skating Olympians and hopefuls and other American Olympians in general, wondering about their stances. And was greeted by deafening silence on the subject.

I take the critics suddenly popping up now on Johnny's page less seriously if they are not uniformly engaging other American and also international Olympians/wannabees in this discussion, and singling out the one lone currently competing national-level figure skater who is officially out.